Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mary Magdalene, Equal to the Apostles

I haven't had much chance to post anything about it today, but I did want to note that today, the 22nd is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Equal to the Apostles on the Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican calendars. 'Equal to the Apostles' is a liturgical title, used primarily by the Orthodox and by Eastern Rite Catholics, translating 'isapostolos'. It designates not a rank -- while there may be saints of more or less universality, there's no point in ranking them because they are all one in Christ -- but a calling. It is given to those who were called to spread the Gospel 'just like' the apostles were. Saints Cyril and Methodius, who missionized Russia, had an isapostolic calling; Saint Benedict, the 'Apostle to Germany', had an isapostolic calling; Saints Olga and Vladimir, responsible for the conversion of Russia, had isapostolic callings; and so forth. For what is Mary given the title? For the most important thing, because she was the first to see the dawn of the new age. As Hippolytus said, she was the apostle to the apostles:

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Because the gospels say that Jesus cast seven devils out of her, Mary of Magdala has become one of history's great symbols of repentance and transformation. So it seems fitting to remember the tears of the Magdalene by repentance of wrongs we have done, and forgiveness of wrongs done to us.

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